It was the original intent of the Founding Fathers to carefully limit the areas of responsibility of the federal government. James Madison pointed out that the Constitution was structured so that the powers delegated to the federal government are few. He also pointed out the number of individuals employed will need to be smaller than the number under the State.
Six Areas of Constitutional Responsibility for POTUS
- Chief of state over the Nation.
- Commander in chief over the military.
- The chief executive officer of the whole executive branch of the federal government.
- The chief diplomat in handling foreign relations.
- The chief architect for needed legislation.
- The conscience of the Nation in granting pardons or reprieves when justice requires.
Nineteen Extra-Constitutional Areas of Discretionary Responsibility for POTUS
- The responsibility of maintaining full employment for the Nation.
- The task of ensuring a high level of agricultural prosperity.
- The task of developing a national housing program.
- The task of supervising the exclusive distribution of atomic energy resources.
- Underwriting mega-bucks in private loans and private insurance programs.
- Providing federal relief for the victims of natural disasters.
- Administrating a national welfare program.
- Administrating a national Medicare and Medicaid program.
- Administrating a national social security program.
- Allocating mega-bucks for education.
- Settling major union labor – management disputes.
- Administrating a network of health agencies.
- Administrating the EPA.
- Administrating nearly 40% of the nation’s land area and resources.
- Administrating control over the discovery and development of energy resources.
- Regulating of all major United States industries.
- Supervising all radio and TV broadcasting required to issuing a license.
- Administrating the FDA.
- Initiating various federal programs on a regional basis to replace many powers and activities originally reserved sovereign to the States.
Four Major Drawbacks of the aforementioned Central Planning
- It is unbelievably expensive.
- By its very nature and intended design the federal government is sluggish and inefficient. The Founding Fathers engineered a system of checks and balances to impede changes because they feared a future efficient tyranny.
- It places mega-bucks at the disposal of the executive branch which can be and have been used to intimidate both the members of Congress and the Governors of the States.
- It is virtually impossible for one human being to effectively administer everything assigned to the POTUS.
The constitutional provision that created the basis for the President’s cabinet
The President may require the opinion, in writing, of the principle officers who superintend the various bureaus and agencies, or other services of the executive department. Such officers shall be required to report to the President any pertinent information he may desire concerning those duties and responsibilities assigned to any office.
In 1789 the cabinet posts created
- Department of State appointed Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson
- Department of Treasury appointed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton
- Department of War appointed Secretary of War Henry Knox
- Office of Attorney General appointed Attorney General Edmund Randolph
The current fifteen cabinet posts and when they got created
- The Department of State
- Department of Treasury
- Department of Defense *In 1947 the Congress formed the National Military Establishment (NME) headed by the Secretary of Defense. The NME combined the Department of War with the Department of Navy (created under J. Adams in 1798) and the Department of Air Force (created under Truman in 1947). In 1949 the NME was renamed the Department of Defense.
- Department of Justice *In 1870 under Grant the post-Civil War increase in the amount of litigation involving the United States necessitated the very expensive retention of a large number of private attorneys to handle the workload. A concerned Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice, setting it up as “an executive department of the government of the United States” with the Attorney General as its head.
- Department of Interior *In 1849 under Taylor Congress created Interior and charged it with duties ranging from issuing patents to running Washington’s jail. In 2003 the department even owned Nevada’s Mustang Ranch brothel, prompting Interior Secretary Gale Norton to observe:
It gives the phrase “Madame Secretary” a whole new meaning.
- Department of Agriculture *After lobbying from the U.S. Agricultural Society (1852), Congress established the Department of Agriculture in 1862 (raised to cabinet level in 1889) under B. Harrison.
- Department of Commerce *This cabinet level department was first created as the Department of Commerce and Labor under T. Roosevelt in 1903. It split up in 1913 under Wilson as the Department of Commerce.
- Department of Labor *In 1913 under Wilson the Department of Labor was split away to be a new cabinet level post.
- Department of Health and Human Services *In 1953 Congress created the Department of Health, Education, and welfare under Ike. In 1979 under Carter Congress split away education and HEW was renamed Department of Health and Human Services.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development *In 1965, under LBJ, Congress created this agency.
- Department of Transportation *In 1967, under LBJ, Congress created the Department of Transportation.
- Department of Energy *In 1977, under Carter, Congress created the Department of Energy.
- Department of Education *In 1979, under Carter, Congress created the Department of Education.
- Department of Veteran Affairs *In 1988, under Reagan, Congress made the Department of Veteran Affairs a cabinet level post.
- Department of Homeland Security *In 2002, under George W. Bush, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of the sneak attack by terrorists on September 11, 2001.
The Founding Fathers designed the office of President to give the President all the power and independence needed to carry out the six specific functions they assigned, but they required the President to operate within a carefully circumscribed sphere of limited authority. It is not true that they wanted a weak executive branch. They did want a strong executive, but with a limited sphere to work in.
The fact that the executive branch has now acquired gigantic dimensions of discretionary power is a matter of the most profound importance to this and all future generations of Americans.
Fortunately, something is built into the Constitution so that any unauthorized usurpation of authority can be dismantled by peaceful means. We the People have the RIGHT to vote into power those who recognize the problem, and are willing to do something about it. History may very well record one day that taking those corrective measures was one of the most important challenges that We the People met.
I wrote this article in July 2009, and the poll question at Unified Patriots has made me revisit what I wrote. I confess, I am one who voted to be rid of the Dept of Energy. I think we could almost reduce back to the original four cabinets. That would definitely limit the sphere for the federal government to work in, but perhaps a little too much for the most powerful nation of the world. Many might disapprove, but I would allow for a fifth cabinet, Health and Human Services. There are many things the federal government can put under the Justice Dept. and Treasury Dept., but the epidemics, pandemics, and caring for veterans who are discharged from the armed services are things for an accountable HHS.